February 2021

Spotlight on Success header


February 2021


Superintendent’s Message


Hello Olympia School District families,


Patrick Murphy headshot

As most are hopefully aware by now, we are well into our implementation of our in-person hybrid learning roll out. On March 8 all elementary grades will be back in person, and our first middle schoolers (sixth graders) will be returning to campus for hybrid instruction on March 15. As stated previously, our goal is to have in-person hybrid learning in place for all middle and high schoolers by the end of March. Our students have done a wonderful job of following health and safety protocols, including wearing masks. Likewise, our staff have worked incredibly hard to have our facilities safely prepared for the return of students and staff. Seeing our students in schools, interacting with classmates and receiving warm welcomes and caring instruction from our teachers and all staff has been a long awaited and beautiful thing to observe.


At the same time, I am so appreciative of our staff who continue to work hard and serve their students remotely. We have a larger percentage than many school districts of families who have chosen to remain exclusively remote. No matter the model of learning, we have tried as much as possible to keep students with their current teachers. We have not been able to do that in all cases at elementary, but when we have not been able to, we have tried to at least keep students in their current school. In some instances, students (or staff) have had to switch schools. At the secondary level, given the complexity of matching up six (6) teachers with a families’ choice, we have created a hybrid model that combines remote learning in the morning with in-person learning in the afternoon. In this way, we can keep all secondary students at their school with their same teachers.


Hybrid learning is one more step toward meeting our ultimate goal of bringing all students back on campus for full days of in-person learning five days a week, just like we did before the Pandemic. We know for some, the transition back to school is moving too slowly. For others, it seems as if we are moving too quickly. As we have done since the Pandemic started, we continue to base our decisions on guidance from our local Health Officer based on the latest COVID-19 data. To see the latest guidance, as well as links to information about the hybrid learning plan and other resources, please visit our In-Person and Remote Learning Updates webpage on the Olympia School District website.



Patrick Murphy Signature
Patrick Murphy



Black History Month


Students throughout OSD celebrate Black History Month

Elementary, middle and high school students throughout the district celebrated Black History Month this year with special projects, videos, research, presentations and assemblies.


Olympia High School students were treated to a special visit from local philanthropist and author Merritt Long. Long and his wife started the Learning Seed Foundation, which provides college scholarships mostly to students of color in Thurston and Pierce County. He also authored the book “My View from the Back of the Bus.” Long grew up in the South and later moved to the Pacific Northwest, where he worked for the State of Washington and eventually served on former Gov. Gary Locke’s Cabinet. His daughter is a graduate of Capital High School.


Long fielded questions from students and told stories about growing up in a time when racism was rampant. He recalled sitting on the back of buses, where a sign labeled “Colored” marked the border between white and black passengers. Black passengers exited from a door at the back of the bus. He also recalled when there were white schools and black schools. Even to a child, it was obvious that the white schools received a disproportionately large share of funding.


“Hard School (Long’s elementary school) was so old, it could be called dilapidated. A wooden structure in dire need of repairs and a fresh coat of paint, the floors were often dusty because the immediate area outside the school was all dirt,” Long said in his memoir. “Our textbooks were used, having been discarded by the white schools in the area. Often they were torn, with pages missing.”


He added during his visit with students, “There was no grass, there were no sliding boards, there was nothing to do other than just run around in circles chasing each other. We tended to get used football gear, used books, it was really keeping in with what was happening at the time which was like, ‘we’ll just do enough to get by.’”


Students throughout Olympia High School watched a video of the interview with Long during their homeroom classes.


At Centennial Elementary School, fifth graders completed a project on “Hidden Heroes.” They researched people that weren't as well known as Martin Luther King, Jr. They also talked about Rosa Parks and Claudette Colvin. After students researched figures that were better known, they moved on to figures that were lesser known, but shared a common theme or achievement. Biographies of the “Hidden Heroes” are on display in the hallways of the school for everyone to learn from.


“We started this project to bring awareness to the fact that black figures in history haven’t been given their due credit for the amazing accomplishments that they achieved,” said one of the teachers who led the unit. “This project was part of a bigger civil rights unit where we talked about the accomplishments and legacy of some lesser-known African Americans in history and in our present.”


The project was well-received by student participants. “Hidden Heroes were people who changed lives even by the slightest but many people didn’t know about them or never heard about them -- making them hidden,” said one student. “You could give Shirley Chisholm, the person I researched, the title as a Hidden Hero because back in her day no one thought of her as a world changer until now.”


Other students provided similar feedback. “Everyone makes a difference some way or another even if they are not known,” one participant said. “This assignment was important because black lives matter,” said another.


At Lincoln Elementary School, one student completed self-inquiry research and advocacy around Black Lives Matter. She researched the history of BLM and what it means for her and others. She advocated for all people to understand what Black Lives Matter means and to stand against injustices of race. She presented her findings at a school assembly, along with a call to action.


“The mission is to get rid of white supremacy and build power to intervene in violence inflicted on black communities,” said fifth grader Shelby Sever. “In September 2016, at a high school soccer game in Rochester, New York, 18 soccer players took a knee during the National Anthem. These players were protesting racial injustice and police brutality. Their efforts started a districtwide movement that evolved into a full-day event that works to educate community members of the much-needed work towards equality. This story is a valuable example of collective action within a school district.”


Sever encouraged students to complete their own research on the Black Lives Matter movement. She also encouraged donating to refugee camps in Africa.


At Thurgood Marshall Middle School, all students discussed Black Lives Matter at School Week February 1-5 and Black History Month during advisory periods. Eighth graders at TMMS also began a study of the book “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You.”


This year was the second year at TMMS where a group of students created and produced a video series called the Cornwall Connection. The project began last year with the idea of an eighth grade student who felt that the school should do more to celebrate Black History Month. School leaders listened, and the Cornwall Connection was born. The first year, a small group of students talked about a different prominent figure from black history every day of February.


This year, the group of students who help produce the Cornwall Connection has grown. The students write scripts and tell their personal stories on video for the whole school to see. Four episodes in February focused on different Black History Month themes: Black Lives Matter at School Week, Black Hair Love, the Read Woke Movement, and a feature on Thurgood Marshall along with student reflections on Black History Month. Upcoming topics include Women’s History Month, Asian American History Month and LGBTQ+ issues. Organizers of the Cornwall Connection are working on plans to connect the project with similar groups at other middle schools across the district.


View the most recent Cornwall Connection episodes in Mustang News



OSD Optional Programs


OSD Optional Elementary Programs

The Olympia School District optional elementary programs at Lincoln Options, Hansen Alternative Program (HAP), and ORLA Montessori are excited to move forward with enrollment and lottery information.


Families should plan to attend a Zoom information meeting to learn more about the program and receive information for lottery paperwork. If you cannot attend an informational meeting, we require that you contact the school principal (see contact information at the end of this correspondence). The dates for these meetings are available below and posted on each school website.


To attend the meeting, we request that families use the Optional Program Informational Night Invite form to sign up by 2 p.m. on the day of each school's meeting. The building principal will send out a Zoom invitation on the afternoon of the meeting.


  • Lincoln Options: March 3 and March 18 at 6 p.m.
  • ORLA Montessori: March 11 and March 18 at 6 p.m.
  • Hansen Alternative Program (HAP): March 16 and March 18 at 6:30 p.m.


Important Enrollment and Lottery Timelines

  • Informational Nights will be held between March 3 and March 18 (see information above for each school).
    • Sign-ups for the meeting will be completed. Zoom invites will be sent to families on the day of the event after 2 p.m.
    • Lottery Application Forms will be emailed to families after each information night.
  • The paper or electronic Lottery Application Forms are due to each school on March 26, 2021, by 3 p.m.
  • The Lottery will be completed by each school on April 2, 2021.
  • Email notification will be sent to families by April 16, 2021.
  • Parent response to accept the enrollment is due April 23, 2021, by 3 p.m.


Principal Emails


Marcela Abadi

[email protected]

Principal, Lincoln Options


Billy Harris

[email protected]

Principal, HAP


Celeste Waltermeyer

[email protected]

Administrator, ORLA Montessori



Daily Wellness


Remember to complete daily wellness screening and monthly attestation

Now that more students are returning to in-person hybrid learning on our school campuses, we want to remind families that we require parents/guardians to screen their student’s health daily before the student boards the school bus and/or arrives at school for on-site learning or activities.


We also ask parents/guardians to complete a monthly attestation form in Skyward Family Access when their student first starts on-site learning/activities, and again at the start of each month thereafter, that attests they will complete this daily wellness screening, including checking the student for symptoms of COVID-19 before they come on campus.


The form can be accessed in Skyward Family Access via a computer or mobile phone app.



Remember, too, that in addition to the family’s daily health screening, each student will have their temperature checked and be observed for symptoms upon entry at all OSD schools daily. Students who don’t pass the school’s daily symptom screening will be isolated and sent home.


Thank you for your cooperation in adhering to this important daily screening and monthly attestation process. 



First Day of School


First day of hybrid in-person learning photos from across the district

As you may imagine the excitement was palpable at elementary schools across our district as the first day of hybrid in-person learning kicked off for the 2020-21 school year.


Smiles radiated through the masks of both students and teachers alike. The behavior and attention to direct instruction was remarkable. It was hard to believe the majority of these kiddos were experiencing in-person learning for the first time.


Below are photos we took at our elementary schools on the first few days of in-person learning for kindergarten, first and second grade:



Be sure to check out the OSD Facebook Page for more 'First Day' posts with photos and videos from throughout the month of February. Stay tuned as we will continue to regularly push out new content as in-person learning continues to be safely rolled-out by grade!



OSD Distinguished Graduate


Kris Larson, Distinguished Grad, Olympia High School Class of 1984

Kris Larson is somewhat of a legend at Olympia High School. A 1984 graduate, folks still recall Larson as the best female athlete to ever walk the halls of OHS -- which is quite impressive considering the school opened in 1882.


During her time at OHS, Larson accomplished the rare feat of earning nine varsity letters in four different sports. She played girl's basketball, swimming, track and field, and soccer. She earned three track state championships in the shot put, discus and javelin and still holds the school record in shot put (45'2 1/2") and javelin (152'6"). Her athletic skill earned her a full scholarship to UCLA, where she is still one of the top 10 throwers of all time.


After college, Larson took that strength and discipline and used it to become a firefighter for the Los Angeles Fire Department, where she quickly rose to the top of the ranks. Today, Larson is a battalion chief. She is the first African American female to be promoted to Captain I, Captain II and Battalion Chief in the LAFD history.


Teachers and coaches at OHS aren’t surprised to hear of Larson’s career success. “She is the best female athlete that ever attended Olympia High School,” said former track coach John Amidon. “She is incredible.”


Larson said that her success today is largely due to time management skills from being a scholar-athlete, a strong work ethic inherited from her parents and grandparents, and a family that supported her career choice.


Larson is also part of a program called Camp Blaze, a two-day camp that brings in young females interested in becoming firefighters. The camp provides skills and training so participants can see what it takes to become a firefighter. Larson donates her time and uses vacation time to be a part of this.


Anyone interested in becoming a firefighter could benefit from athletics in high school, Larson said. “Being an athlete is the perfect lead into being a firefighter,” she said. “All the hard training translates to training in the fire service.”


But regardless of what career path you choose, make sure it’s something you enjoy, Larson said. “Find out what you love to do and make that your work,” she said. “This way you will always feel passionate about your work.”


Distinguished Grads is a new series profiling graduates from our schools who model achievement in careers, hobbies or unique pursuits. If you know someone who should be considered for a profile, please email [email protected]. Please include contact information for the graduate.



Pioneer ES Valentines


Pioneer students celebrate Month of Compassion with valentines project

Patients and staff at Providence St. Peters Hospital received a pleasant surprise this month when representatives from Pioneer Elementary School delivered nearly 500 handcrafted valentines to the hospital. Pioneer Principal Joel Lang, along with AmeriCorps member Jane Wingfield, delivered the valentines on February 10, ahead of Valentine’s Day.


Students in kindergarten through 5th grade crafted the valentines with colorful paper, markers and kind messages. The valentines were delivered all around the hospital to nursing stations and various departments. They were also displayed in hallways, on office doors, in break rooms and in patient rooms. The project was part of the school's annual Month of Compassion.


“Folks are loving the valentines,” said Sarah Merrifield, director of the palliative care unit at St. Peters. “Patients and staff, alike, are touched and warmed to receive them. People have commented on their beauty, the obvious time children spent on making them, and some of the sweet messages.


“Interestingly, some of the staff that don’t work face-to-face with patients and families, like biomedical services, security and information technology, have been the most enthusiastic to receive the valentines. It reminds me that there are so many people working hard, behind the scenes, to keep the hospital running efficiently, who don’t receive the recognition and gratitude that those of us interacting with patients enjoy on a daily basis.”


Lang said he plans to make the hospital valentines project an annual tradition.



Countdown to Kindergarten


Countdown to Kindergarten set for March 6, 2021

The Olympia School District will hold its annual “Countdown to Kindergarten” informational event starting at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 6, 2021, via Zoom.


If you know of neighbors or friends who have a child entering kindergarten in the fall and live within the Olympia School District, please share this information with them and encourage them to attend.


The Countdown to Kindergarten will include a presentation for all parents /guardians of children entering kindergarten in September 2021. Participants will hear from Superintendent Patrick Murphy, Executive Director of Elementary Education Autumn Lara and principals.


When: March 6, 2021 at 10:30 a.m. Pacific Time (US and Canada)
Topic: Countdown To Kindergarten (via Zoom)
Zoom Link: bit.ly/OSDC2K2021
Passcode: 821189


Additional Zoom details available here



Upcoming Events


  • March 2: OSD Board Work Session online via Zoom at 6 p.m.
  • March 6: Countdown to Kindergarten online via Zoom at 10:30 a.m.
  • March 8: In-Person Hybrid Learning Begins (Grades 3, 4 and 5)
  • March 11: OSD Board Meeting in-person and online via Zoom at 6:30 p.m.
  • March 15: In-Person Hybrid Learning Begins (Grade 6)
  • March 25: OSD Board Meeting in-person and online via Zoom at 6:30 p.m.
  • March 30 - April 2: Elementary School Conferences (Half Day)



OSD Notice of Nondiscrimination

The Olympia School District will provide equal educational opportunity and treatment for all students in all aspects of the academic and activities program without discrimination based on race, religion, creed, color, national origin, age, honorably-discharged veteran or military status, sex, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, marital status, the presence of any sensory, mental or physical disability, or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability. The district will provide equal access to school facilities to the Boy Scouts of America and all other designated youth groups listed in Title 36 of the United States Code as a patriotic society. District programs will be free from sexual harassment. Auxiliary aids and services will be provided upon request to individuals with disabilities.


The Olympia School District offers many Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs/courses in the following areas: Skilled and Technical Sciences/STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics); Agriculture/Natural Resources; Business Marketing; Family and Consumer Sciences; and Health Sciences. For more information about CTE course offerings and admissions criteria, contact Pat Cusack, Director of College and Career Readiness, 111 Bethel St. N.E., Olympia, WA 98506, (360) 596-6102. Lack of English language proficiency will not be a barrier to admission and participation in CTE programs.


The following people have been designated to handle inquiries regarding the nondiscrimination policies, reports of alleged sexual harassment, concerns about compliance, and/or grievance procedures:

Michael Hart, Title IX Officer


Ken Turcotte, Section 504 and ADA Coordinator (Students)


Starla Hoff, ADA Coordinator (Staff)


Scott Niemann, Affirmative Action Officer and Civil Rights Compliance Coordinator


Pat Cusack, Director of College and Career Readiness


All six individuals may also be contacted at 111 Bethel St. N.E., Olympia, WA, 98506.